The Conservatives have Challenged the Decision to Pause and Review the Bypass
Our new councillors need your support on September 9th!
Conservative Councillors have called-in for Scrutiny the decision made by Councillor Harrington, the Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, to pause and review the two major Transport Packages promoted by the previous Conservative-led administration. These are the Southern Link Road (SLR) and the Western Relief Road (WRR)-otherwise known as the Bypass
Read this text and write to the Scrutiny Committee to ask some poignant questions, such as:
1. In light of the Climate Emergency Declaration, voted for unanimously under Conservative rule, why would the onservatives (or indeed anyone) feel it appropriate to challenge the idea of building carbon high new roads? Moreover, why would the council, working under this declaration, feel it appropriate to consider such a challenge?
2. Can the Cabinet member confirm that the overall traffic across the bridge (@45000pa) has not increased since 2000?
3. Can the Cabinet member confirm that the number of lorries (HGV's) crossing the bridge has actually fallen consistently since 2000?
4. Can the Cabinet member confirm that Highways England did not require a cap on vehicle traffic leaving the Old Market shopping development but did so for the HEZ?
5. Can the Cabinet member confirm that the time savings quoted for a bypass in the HTP leaflets were made up and not the result of any detailed modelling?
6. Can the Cabinet member confirm that NE/EA(?) suggested that air quality monitoring in the AQMA stop as levels were below any trigger point?
7. Can the Cabinet member confirm that HE's own figures show that Herefordshire is in the lowest possible category for businesses dependent on the strategic road network? (and should remain so)
8. Can the Cabinet member confirm that the A49 is amongst the most highly rated strategic roads in the country by its users?
There are many more questions that must be asked. Once you have read the text below, you will have many of your own questions.
The deadline is Tuesday September 3rd at 5pm.
The meeting time is September 9th at 10.15am, Shire Hall
It is advisable that you read the documentation for the Scrutiny Committee before you submit your question.
Here are some notes from our research team:
The packages consist almost entirely of road-building :-
(1) the SLR – Southern Link Road – part of the South Wye Transport Package (SWTP)
(2) the WRR – Western Relief Road – part of the Hereford Transport Package (HTP)
The Scrutiny committee can make reports and recommendations to the Leader, the Council and to some partner organisations. The Scrutiny committee has the power to scrutinise the services provided by organisations outside the council such as the company which has the Council’s public realm contract: Balfour Beatty Living Places including any sub-contractors, such as WSP. It is through this Balfour Beatty contract that almost £10mn of expenditure on these infrastructure proposals has been permitted, relatively unchecked. Astonishingly the Council has claimed that the SWTP and HTP are defined as major projects, rather than major schemes. This definition has allowed the Council, so far, to avoid ring-fenced audit procedures for each scheme.
1). The infrastructure proposals are outdated by advances in transport technology
The recommendations to build infrastructure for more cars are based on an unsustainable strategy that ignores the impact of emissions growth on Climate Change and modern technology. Modern technology will reduce car dependency and car ownership through car-sharing, better public transport, enhanced cycling and walking active travel, all with mobility apps. The need for increased road capacity for single occupancy travel will be reduced.
a. NB The 2010 Core Strategy that defined the need for increasing road capacity around Hereford is based on a major urban expansion that excluded increasing access for City Schools and Commuters using modern technology in emission-free public transport. The cost benefit ratios of active travel infrastructure are far greater than roads when designed to reduce City traffic congestion and pollution.
b. The infrastructure proposals also excluded a full assessment of the CO2 and NOx emissions of road construction and construction transport emissions. The analysis of road transport emissions also excluded emissions from industries trading carbon credits, such as tankers from oil refineries.
c. The basis of increased demand for road capacity, as set out in the infrastructure proposals, is projected from traffic modelling drawn from projected development of car dependent housing. The modelling did not include motorway relief traffic and therefore underestimates the future levels of congestion in and around Hereford, and overestimates journey time savings in peak traffic.
d. Access roads to the Council’s car dependent housing schemes allegedly form part of a bypass to reduce congestion, but more roads simply generate more traffic. This type of urban expansion consisting of 6,500 car-dependent houses and access roads is unsustainable growth.
2). Infrastructure plans failed to optimise use of existing infrastructure before expanding roads and were hostage to central government funding
The use of all existing transport infrastructure must be optimised to maximum benefit of society before expanding road capacity.
a. The proposals do not address the worst peak congestion in the City, which according to Council Surveys is in the North East quadrant of Hereford City arising from students, commuters and school traffic using that quadrant.
b. Current pinch points like the single lane road bridges over the rail tracks north of Hereford should be widened.
c. The disused rail lines and rail bridge river crossing would permit efficient installation and use of light rail trams that would reduce road traffic.
d. The old road bridge in the historic City centre could accommodate more buses and cycles to reduce impact on through traffic.
e. Many improvements must be made to the active travel cycle lanes and footpaths before resorting to road building.
f. It is clear from the advancement of transport infrastructure in Europe that safer cycling networks require major investment in design, not the piecemeal effort on offer. The proposals paid lip-service to active travel measures and delayed them.
g. Housing sites should have transport plans that provide public transport and safe active travel. This modern approach to urban development should be incorporated before resorting to more roads.
h. Funding green or sustainable initiatives through municipal bonds is well established in North America and Scandinavia. Green bonds offer attractive yields to investors and provide capital to reinvest in sustainable transport infrastructure. Herefordshire Council could establish a £1 toll over the City bridge to generate £10-12 million a year, using the free cash flow to pay interest on a County Green Bond of say £150 million at 7.5% pa or £200 million at 5% pa.
3). The appraisal methods failed to highlight that both infrastructure schemes are poor value for money compared with expanding public transport services
a. The approved capital cost analysis is based on outdated budgets, due for updating after further business plans have been produced, no sooner than 2020.
b. Environmental mitigation costs were underestimated, particularly due to the increased awareness of greater flooding as a result of climate change. The concept that housebuilders would pay for roads was debunked when the Three Elms Estate developers stated they could not pay for the road and affordable housing.
c. Concerns were raised by the public after revelations of escalating consulting costs for infrastructure, increasing from an original budget of less than £0.5 million to over £8 million so far. Like HS2, contractual arrangements allowed consultants to raise design costs and escalate cost estimates. This increased their contractual cost-plus benefits, instead of resulting in penalties. In short, the more they spent, the more they earned.
d. Recommendations made to tighten budget controls after the Council’s Blue School House overspend have not been implemented on major infrastructure projects in a timely fashion.
e. Traffic modelling did not consider the impact of using efficient affordable public transport to reduce single occupancy car use and city congestion. Modern city bus service networks and trams are run using algorithms and clean technology in many countries across the world. These measures reduce the need for road capacity increases by transferring passengers from single use car journeys to multiple occupancy buses and trams.
4). The fatal flaws in the Council’s Core Strategy/Local Plan are the environmental impacts of the proposed schemes and the potential loss of existing commercial interests
a. The proposed economic developments used to justify road building include the development of our floodplains north west of Hereford for housing and for a light industrial park.
b. Flooding is a National issue and threat to our City exacerbated by increased frequency of flood events and higher rainfall as experienced in 2016. Soil sealing and loss of water storage capacity upstream of our City will likely result in the need for major new City storm drainage capacity, not included in the infrastructure budget, the cost of which is not disclosed.
c. Flood mitigation focuses on bigger storm drains and improving the poor maintenance of existing City drains, but if these measures fail, the ultimate cost will be carried by the residents and County taxpayers, not by the infrastructure consultants, housing developers and road builders.
d. Strategic planning for greater flooding events also raises issues about building over commercial aquifers close to surface in the Three Elms area. These aquifers are used in commercial volumes to wash bottles for cider in one plant and to clean a chicken abattoir and processing factory in the other. Both establishments are major employers, and both would suffer if aquifers became contaminated. A replacement water source would reduce plant economics and may result in closures.
5). Challenging the reasons for the Call-In with our comments in bold type
(a) that there has been inadequate consultation with stakeholders prior to the decision to pause and review the infrastructure schemes
The purpose of pause and review is to consult with everyone, not just stakeholders who are members of the Conservative party
(b) that there was inadequate evidence on which to base a decision and that not all relevant matters were fully taken into account
Specifically the recent Council declaration of Climate Emergency has to be taken into account as a relevant matter, and this will be done during pause and review
(c) document error : numbering proceeded straight to
(d) that the decision is disproportionate to the desired outcome
If the desired outcome is to continue with the infrastructure schemes, then that will be determined during pause and review
(e) document error : numbering proceeded straight to
(f) that the decision-maker has failed to consult with and take professional advice from all relevant officers ... or has failed to have sufficient regard to that advice
There is no suggestion that the decision-maker has ignored due process; this is a recommendation for pause and review, in accordance with the Constitution
(g) that the decision exceeds the powers or terms of reference of the decision-maker ...or that the access to information rules have not been adhered to
Herefordshire’s new County Council is obliged to follow all the rules, not just so-called ‘information rules’; there is a new mandate for transparency and accountability and relevant Cabinet decisions will be referred to full Council.
· Councillor Tracy Bowes (Vice-chairperson)
· Councillor Jonathan Lester (Chairperson)